In my last post - Managing Anything - I argued that there are three significant factors to consider and focus on when "managing anything" - expectations, scope and information. This "Managing Anything" post was meant to direct your attention towards common issues when managing people and projects.
In a continuing thread, I think it's important to consider how we manage others, if we are to improve our management skills. I've chosen the "others" tag with some forethought. Initially I proposed to write a post on "Managing your Manager" but recognized that there are similar issues involved when you are managing up, sideways or down.
Managing "Up" - I think managing up can sometimes look like self-preservation or "sucking up", but it's probably one of the best ways to further your career and move up the ladder. Managing up means understanding what's important - not just to your boss, but your boss's chain of command, and working in ways to demonstrate you are on board and working to achieve those goals. Managing up means working on items that are of immediate concern and value to your manager, and going beyond the call to begin to anticipate his or her needs. This does not mean overshadowing your manager - which can introduce some threat to his or her job from you - but clearly demonstrating you understand your role and how it impacts his or her performance and success. When I worked with a former consulting firm now known as Accenture, we had a saying - "If you want to be a manager, act like one" - in other words, demonstrate your understanding of the requirements and act accordingly.
Managing Down - Effectively managing people who work for you requires clear communication, goal setting and constant reinforcement. It also helps to get them to stretch their comfort zones to grow into new roles when they are ready. A good manager should be encouraging her reports to grow beyond where they are - if the people are ready and interested. I read an article over the weekend about an anonymous survey of US troops in Iraq. The survey was trying to identify strong leadership qualities. Overwhelming feedback was the best leaders gave clear direction, set clear goals and led by example. I think those are good goals for the military and also for civilians.
Managing Sideways - Managing sideways is what happens when you are given control of a project or task that involves people from several different departments who don't report to you - in fact may be your peers. To effectively manage people in this situation, you need to establish buy-in to a common set of goals early in the project. This is what will provide you with the leverage you need to get things done. I wrote another post about this in which I discussed gaining Virtual Authority. In many firms, bureaucracy, red tape, different initiatives across business functions and downright laziness can make managing across corporate teams very difficult. You've got to gain virtual authority to manage effectively, and it's just not that easy to do.
To sum up:
- Communicate your goals and objectives
- Set clear milestones/outcomes
- Act with commitment
- Lead by example
- Help others achieve their goals by removing roadblocks
- Get people to stretch beyond their comfort zone
Managing others - up, down or sideways - is an art, and one in which we are all students for most of our lives. Using the basics - setting expectations, scope and using information effectively, and demonstrating good managerial attributes - communicating, setting clear objectives and helping others achieve their goals - will help you take the first steps towards improving your managerial expertise.